From the Apache County Independent August 8, 1952
REALIZATION OF ALVIN BECKER'S' DREAM STARTS USE OF ELECTRIC POWER IN AREA
Round Valley Power Celebrates 25th Year
REALIZATION OF ALVIN BECKER'S' DREAM STARTS USE OF ELECTRIC POWER IN AREA
Few people ever give thought to the background of today's luxuries or to the power which makes them possible.
Today the average home has every convenience to make housework easier and tempers more stable.
Twenty-six years ago, people in Round Valley were denied modern equipment, and businesses were operated without many modern conveniences.
Round Valley was one of the last isolated communities in Arizona to have the use of electric power.
It took the realization of Alvin G. Becker's lifelong dream to first start the change in home lighting and use of electric power.
The original idea for the White Mountain area to have electric power was formed while Alvin Becker was in the Army during World War I.
A detailed worker, the Springerville man gathered material and statistics on weather, power and land conditions. After his discharge from the Army he continued his research on Sundays, evenings and during vacations.
He kept records of ice conditions in areas between Greer and St. Johns and made continued water surveys.
Finally, after six years, he had a complete Collection of statistics on power sites, canal sites, measurement of river flow, storage facilities of Becker's lake which he was going to use and the cost of construction of the plant.
He sent the material to David Fennessey, consultant power engineer of Texas, who was at that time internationally known for his work on hydroelectric problems.
Fennessey sent back a report substanting Becker's proposals and detailed material.
As a result, in 1927, a hydro plant was installed 3-3/4 miles below the town of Springerville on the Little Colorado river.
Included in the equipment used was a. 65 h. p. hydraulic impulse wheel with a 2300 volt, 60 cycle alternating current electric generator. During the major part of the first year normal river flow was to provide sufficient water. When necessary a ditch from Becker's Lake was to be constructed to provide necessary water.
Lines were erected for the towns of Eagar and Springerville.
The canal which carried water to the hydro plant followed an old Indian irrigation ditch used by some tribe between 500 and 1000 years ago.
Indians had used the ditch to irrigate crops which were planted on terraces throughout the area. Some of these terraces can still be seen today.
At one point in the ditch a huge boulder barred passage of a considerable amount of water.
To partially eliminate this problem the Indians had burned and chiseled a hole at its bottom to allow passage of irrigation water.
Alvin Becker was forced to destroy the boulder.
A corporation was formed during 1927 which included Gustav Becker, Harris Miller, John C. Hall and Alvin Becker.
The Apache Tavern and Becker's Garage were the first two customers of the newly formed electric company.
During the early stages of the company, which was later to be known as the Round Valley Light and Power Company, nature did its best to destroy the work of this man.
Ice dams and ditch washouts caused hours of extra work.
Lightning struck often, causing damage to equipment and disruption of power to Round Valley. One day in September of 1929, the founder went to the plant to find the generator a red hot _____ mass and smoke pouring out of the building.
Working hurriedly and with only 24 hours sleep in seven days, Alvin finally obtained a new generator, found in an old adobe building in Safford.
In order to accommodate the ditch tender, a bunk house was built near the hydro plant from which men took off for their daily work on banks.
Early in 1929 the diversion dam was raised and a new concrete spillway constructed.
During the early years, electric rates for resident use was set at $2 per month minimum for 9 KWH.
Rates were decreased according to expenses of the plant. The owner was a firm believer in giving community members as much for their money as was possible.
As the years progressed, the founder of the company worked many hours to eliminate problems in the system and attempted to give the people the very cheapest rates.
Kerosene lamps and other forms of lighting were soon done away with and electric lights installed in their place.
Neon signs and show windows brightened the darkened Main Street and soon Springerville had the appearance of other modern towns.
One afternoon in July 1940, Round Valley residents looked up to the sky and saw three dark clouds traveling at a high speed.
A spattering of rain followed and then came one of the worst storms ever witnessed in Round Valley. Hail fell rapidly and in great quantities. Ice pellets the size of small eggs and baseball bombarded the valley and soon resulted in destruction of all windows, signs and neon lights.
The south and east sides of buildings on Main Street drew the greatest wrath from nature's weapons; prairie dogs and rabbits were forced out of holes due to the flooding waters. These animals were, killed instantly by slashing ice pellets.
All crops in the valley were ruined. Lights were out as the hydro plant became flooded.
Lyman Dam near St. Johns rose 12 feet overnight. Approximately 5,000 second feet of water poured into the dam.
Although the Forest Service office recorded only, 1.10 inches of water, the havoc raised by the storm was unestimable in term of dollars.
The remaining part of the year was spent in rebuilding damaged equipment and diversion dams.
By 1941 a new control tower and distribution control room had been constructed and electrical current was flowing better that ever into the lines of Eagar and Springerville.
Water was the important factor of the hydro plant. When moisture in the White Mountain area was light, artificial means of propelling the plant had to be used.
Alvin Becker kept a close account of inches of moisture and running feet of water. His diary is full of statistics concerning these facts.
The spring of 1947 proved to b the most nerve wracking and exhausting of Alvin Becker's entire career.
Rural Electrification agents began organizing in the area and threatened to build lines on the Round Valley Power Co.'s territories. In order to compete with the powerful organization, rates were cut and further equipment purchased.
Becker spent many hours in consultation with REA officials and state industrial men, attempting to settle the issue fairly.
Following the. REA issue, an employee, Dell Hale, broke his leg, leaving an important cog in the company's system vacant.
The extra work was taken over by the founder who managed to squeeze the work of an additional man into his own activities.
The river runoff on which the company was dependent for supply of water failed to materialize, forcing a cut in current overflow.
Diesel oil jumped in price, adding to the expense of the harried company official.
A smear campaign was started by a Springerville person after the company had cut off his current for failure to pay back debts.
When the supervisors of the company transferred the franchise from Alvin Becker to the Round Valley Light and Power, Becker found himself working day and night trying to raise money for additional equipment.
Through perseverance and a strong self will, Alvin Becker overcame the problems blocking him from his goal.
In 1948, after the main obstacles had been overcome, the Springerville electrical pioneer was able to look back and nod his head with confidence.
While searching for a site for an additional light pole on the highway, Alvin Becker was struck by a car and died within a few hours.
The founder's life was ended by a machine, but the spirit of his efforts have been continued, now being carried on by his wife, Margaret, who was a constant companion in her husband's work.
Mrs. Becker has continued with the work in the power company with the help of Dell Hale and Max Baldonado, mechanic and ditch man, respectively, from the time the company first started.
Today, the RVLP is buying power from REA, but the current is still primarily coming from the plant built by Alvin Becker.
The diesels installed years before are no longer in use except in emergency.
Rates are still comparatively low and will remain in this manner as long as expenses can be kept at a minimum.
According to newspaper reports printed during Alvin Becker's lifetime, the Springerville man had followed closely, the Rotarian creed, "service above self."
His affiliations were: official of the office of Price Administration; aid with war relief; member of the American Legion for 28 years; member of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers, charter member of Greater Arizona.
Alvin Becker's way, of life can easily be summed up from 5,000 year old Sanskrit inscription which reads:
"Oh, ye peoples of the earth walk together; talk together; then only then, you have peace."